“Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.” ~ W. H. Auden, “Reading”
One of the most insistent tugs we feel in life’s journey, especially at mid-life and beyond, is toward greater authenticity. At some point, perhaps to our own surprise, we find ourselves ripping off decades’ layers of defenses, masks, armor, and costumes, and we tremble with both excitement and terror at what we will discover at our core.
Authentic: real or genuine; not copied or false; true and accurate (Merriam-Webster)
The quest for authenticity is perhaps the human quest, and it is crucial for writers. Unless we are willing to look at and be who we are (even if that is “nothing” in the Buddhist sense), our writing may be original but it will lack clarity and truth.
Writing from within our authenticity will not only make us better writers but will also make us feel better about our writing.
How do we become more authentic?
I want to suggest a simple first step: pick one thing about yourself that you perceive as a flaw—not something that is imminently dangerous, but some imperfection that nags at you, like being physically lazy or thinking that your laugh is too loud—and forget about trying to change it.
Reframe it to something more positive. Instead of calling yourself lazy, think of yourself as someone who is good at conserving energy. Instead of covering your mouth when you erupt in laughter, throw your head back and let the world see your not-so-pearly whites!
When we stop apologizing for and ruing who we are, our authenticity begins to take care of itself.